This article contains an updated summary of the most important coronavirus news that is relevant to Australian frequent flyers as of Friday, 24 April 2020. It specifically covers the implications of COVID-19 in terms of travel and loyalty programs. For the latest health advice, we recommend checking Australian government updates and the latest World Health Organization advice.
Virgin Australia in voluntary administration
Virgin Australia entered voluntary administration on Tuesday. But the company is not in liquidation and continues to operate scheduled flights. There are hopes that the airline could use this opportunity to restructure and resume normal operations in a few months with new owners.
Virgin has been offered some assistance from various state governments, including a $200 million package from the Queensland government after the airline threatened to move its headquarters from Brisbane to Melbourne. The federal government has also provided some fee relief and subsidised flights, but has refused Virgin’s requests for a $1.4 billion loan.
Virgin Australia bookings and flight credits are still valid, but the airline is not currently providing refunds while in administration.
Velocity Frequent Flyer is a separate business entity and not in administration, but redemptions have been “paused”. Some Australian banks have now suspended point transfers from their credit card reward programs to Velocity Frequent Flyer.
Read the full story here: Frequent Flyer’s Guide to Virgin Australia in Voluntary Administration
Virgin removes buy-on-board menu
Virgin Australia is no longer offering snacks & drinks for sale in Economy class on its flights. It continues to offer packaged snacks and water for free. Like Qantas, the airline has also started blocking middle seats on all flights to ensure social distancing.
Rex resumes flights with federal government funding
Regional Express (Rex) has committed to resuming 1-2 services per week to most of its regional destinations after securing a Commonwealth Grant Agreement under the COVID-19 Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) program.
Rex has also started testing passengers’ temperatures at check-in.
Sydney Airport runway becomes a parking lot
The east-west runway at Sydney Airport is now providing extra parking space for planes, having been closed for operational use. The parallel north-south runways remain operational.
Sydney’s east-west runway (07/25) is normally only used when required by the weather, accounting for around 10% of the airport’s aircraft movements. But, under normal circumstances, the airport would not be able to operate normally for around two weeks per year without the east-west runway.
Yet more airline, hotel status extensions
Avianca LifeMiles, Bangkok Airways FlyerBonus, Southwest Rapid Rewards and SAS EuroBonus are among the latest frequent flyer programs to announce 12-month elite status extensions for their members.
Meanwhile, IHG Rewards Club will extend all members’ status by 1 year until January 2022. Previously, this policy only applied to members residing in Greater China. And Asiana Club is extending status by 3-6 months.
Singapore Airlines extends cancellation fee waivers
Singapore Airlines and SilkAir are now offering refunds or travel vouchers with bonus credit for customers booked to travel until 30 June 2020 (previously 31 May 2020).
Air Mauritius in administration
Air Mauritius has entered voluntary administration, citing an inability to meet its financial obligations due to the coronavirus travel restrictions and a “complete erosion of the company’s revenue base”.
Qatar Airways consolidates Doha lounges
Qatar Airways, one of the few airlines still flying many of its normal schedules, has closed most of its lounges at Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Having closed its Al Safwa First Lounge and the lounges dedicated for passengers with Oneworld status flying in Economy class, Qatar Airways is now sending all passengers eligible for lounge entry to Al Mourjan Business Lounge. Although this may be slightly disappointing for passengers flying in Qatar Airways First class, Al Mourjan Business Lounge is excellent with lots of space, great facilities and two restaurants.
Join the discussion on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) News & Discussion forum.